Skagit Valley College


Welcome to the Dental Assisting Bridge Program

The Dental Assisting Bridge Program is a collaborative educational program being offered through a partnership between Skagit Valley College (SVC), Bellingham Technical College (BTC), and the Northwest Career and Technical Academy (NCTA). The Dental Assisting Bridge Program provides a series of pre-requisite and entry-level Dental Assisting courses for students attending Skagit Valley College. This is a unique three-quarter program designed to provide entry-level skills and education to college students and co-enrolled high school juniors/ seniors interested in a future career as a dental professional. The program helps prepare students for employment or transfer to continuing education and completion of a Dental Assistant Certificate or degree at the college level. This program is fully articulated with Bellingham Technical College’s accredited Dental Assisting certificate and degree program.  Students who wish to continue in the program will be given priority consideration in the application process and will have advanced standing upon acceptance into BTC’s program.

Class Schedule: this is a full-year program (Sept.-June) with courses scheduled sequentially.  Classes are block-scheduled for 2.5 hours per day Monday-Friday.  Students may enter this program Fall Quarter only.  Students can choose either an a.m. or p.m. section (on a space available basis).  All classes take place on the NCTA campus (located on SVC campus).

Dental Morning Session: 8:00 am – 10:30 am, Daily

Dental Afternoon Session: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, Daily

The Northwest Career and Technical Academy operates a full functioning dental clinic staffed with dental professionals.  The clinic provides students with clinical/patient experiences, including 4-handed expanded function chair-side practice and equipment maintenance using a variety of delivery systems.  Students participating in this program will experience academic and professional training in a highly focused work environment.

The primary goal of the collaborative Dental Assisting Bridge Program is to provide SVC students an opportunity to complete all of the required prerequisite and general education academic courses needed to successfully transfer to BTC's accredited Dental Assisting program where they can complete the degree or certificate option. Students who complete the full year Bridge Program may be eligible to earn up to 40.5 college credits that can be applied towards completion of BTC’s 85.5 credit Dental Assisting Certificate, or 90.5 credit AAS degree.  Taking these courses on the SVC campus will save students time and money towards completion of a Dental Assisting degree or certificate. These courses may also transfer to other college's dental-related programs. Students who complete the full Dental Assistant Certificate program at BTC (or other college) are prepared to be a key member of the dental team and assist the operator chair-side during diagnostic, preventative and operative dental procedures, including exposing x-rays, placing sealants, polishing teeth, preparing dental materials, and placing temporary restorations.

For more detailed information about completing the full certificate program and requirements for transfer to BTC, please read this document: Instructions for Completing the Dental Assisting Degree or Certificate Program.

Completion of the Dental Assisting Bridge Program Certificates provides preparation for employment as a Sterilization Assistant or Dental Receptionist.  An employer may also provide the on-the-job training necessary to move into a Dental Assistant position.  Most Dental Assistants are employed by private dental offices.  Students completing the full Dental Assistant degree are typically employed by private dental offices, orthodontists, periodontists, hospitals, dental schools, state and local public health departments, federal agencies (including the military), or in clinics.  Although most program graduates work as dental assistants, opportunities may also exist for employment as sterilization/infection control assistants, dental hygiene assistant, dental radiographic assistant, dental technician, dental receptionist, or dental sales representative.

Typical Work Tasks

Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care, office and laboratory duties. Specific tasks typically required of a dental assistant include:

  • Perform basic chair-side assisting techniques in general and specialty practices.
  • Expose, process, and mount dental radiographs/x-rays.
  • Place sealants, polish teeth, prepare dental materials, and place temporary restorations.
  • Sterilize/disinfect instruments and equipment; prepare procedural trays.
  • Record patient medical and dental history, and chart pertinent patient information.
  • Instruct patients on post-operative and preventative oral health care, including good nutrition.
  • Schedule patients for various treatments, maintain a recall system, complete patient insurance forms, make financial arrangements, and use basic dental software.
  • Order and maintain dental office supplies/inventory.
  • Perform dental assisting expanded functions allowed in the state of Washington.

Program Options

The estimated program length is based on full-time enrollment.  It is the student's responsibility to discuss sequencing and work out their individual schedule with a counselor or program advisor.  Any developmental coursework a student may be required to complete may increase the program length.  The certificate program is not intended for university transfer.

Students who successfully complete the full year Dental Assisting Bridge program are eligible to earn one or more of the following certificate options:

Degrees/Certificates Credits Estimated Program Length Admission Dates
Dental Foundations Certificate 24 3 quarters Fall Quarter only
Dental Assisting Bridge Program Certificate 50 3 quarters Fall Quarter only

Program Outcomes:

Graduates of the Dental Assisting Bridge program will

  • Demonstrate academic, technical & professional skills that effectively contribute to the dental healthcare team.
  • Demonstrate cognitive retention of dental terminology, theory and science.
  • Perform expanded functions such as sealant placement, coronal polish, fluoride application, oral hygiene instruction, rubber dam isolation, and preparing dental materials.
  • Practice four-handed chair-side dentistry on general chair-side procedures.
  • Perform basic dental front office skills.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, communication, and positive work ethics as they directly relate to the dental assistant profession.
  • Prepare for continuing advanced education to complete a Dental Assisting Certificate or AAS Degree program.
  • Prepare to obtain an entry-level position in their field of study.

You May Study

  • Dental Terminology
  • Oral Anatomy
  • Radiography
  • Microbiology
  • Instrument Identification & Use
  • Dental Materials
  • Bite-wings/Full Mouth Series
  • Preventative/Restorative Procedures
  • Chair-side Procedures
  • Front Office-Reception Responsibilities
  • OSHA Standards/Sterilization & Infection Control

Program Entry Requirements

Students must apply to the Admissions Office for an application to Skagit Valley College.  Make an appointment to take the Accuplacer test.  Students must enter this program Fall Quarter only.  If scheduled, attend a program Orientation Session for answering questions and registering for classes. For more detailed information about registration, required immunizations, criminal background check, uniform, materials and supplies, please read the Dental Assisting Bridge Program Student Information Packet. To receive a copy of the information packet, please contact Valerie Thompson, Program Assistant).The following are requirements for this program:

Drug Screen and Criminal Background Check:  All SVC students entering the Dental Assistant program will be required to pass both an Illegal Substance-Illegal Drug Screen and Criminal Background check.  This is based on medical industry standards and Washington State laws protecting vulnerable populations (RCW 43.43.880 and 43.43.842). This practice is common among colleges and universities in Washington State and is required by clinical agencies where students complete their clinical practicum.  This screening occurs at the start of the first quarter for the Dental Assisting Bridge program. The fee for the screening is $82. Students who have something show up on the background check or drug screen may need to meet with the department chair to determine if they will be allowed to continue the program. Students must complete this process before registering for winter quarter classes.

Immunizations:  Prior to, or during the first week of the semester, students must provide the instructor with documentation/evidence of current immunization status.  The following immunizations must be current:

  • Tdap vaccine (within the last five years) - includes tetnus and pertussis
  • 2 MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccinations or positive titer
  • Hepatitis B (HBV) vaccine series (at least the first two shots, and the third within 6 months)
  • TB skin test (negative) or chest x-ray

Additional immunizations may be required if recommended by instructor or required by clinical placement:

  • Flu Vaccine
  • Varicella Vaccine

Sample Schedule for Dental Foundations Certificate — 24 Credits

The following technical core courses are included in the three quarter/two semester Dental Foundations Certificate.  To qualify for college credit and admission into BTC's Dental Assisting Certificate or AAS Degree program, students must receive a minimum of C (2.0) or better grades in all academic general education courses and prerequisite dental technical core courses to earn college credit.

View Sample Schedule

To Complete the Dental Assistant Certificate or Degree

Students are encouraged to continue their education/training to complete the full Dental Assistant certificate or degree program.  The Dental foundation courses taken and credits earned can be applied toward completion of the Dental Assisting Certificate or Degree program at BTC.  To be eligible for “program ready” admission into BTC’s Dental Assisting program, applicants must meet all regular college admission requirements, including satisfactory completion of the general education/academic prerequisite courses.  Students must complete 15 credits of academic general education coursework and receive a minimum 2.0 (C) or better grades in all academic courses prior to being admitted to BTC’s Dental Assisting program.  Students interested in transferring on to BTC should plan to complete the Dental Assisting Bridge Certificate (50 credits) which includes all the technical core courses and required Gen Eds.  Students should plan to take one Gen Ed course per quarter. The following courses are required: 

View Sample Schedule for Dental Assisting Bridge program

General Education Prerequisites
ENGL&101    5cr English Composition
WMATH 100  5cr
MATH& 107
Professional-Technical Applied Math,    or
Math in Society
CMST& 210   5cr
Interpersonal Communication,    or
General Psychology
Total Credits 15  

For more detailed information about the requirements and sample schedules, please read Instructions For Completing Dental Assisting Degree or Certificate.

Career Opportunities and Job Search Information

The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is the nation's primary source of occupational information.  The O*Net Online database is an interactive research tool for exploring and searching occupations.  The database, developed by the US Department of Labor, contains information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors, and provides a variety of FREE Career Exploration Tools.

O-Net Online: 
Soc 31-9091.00 - Dental Assistant

Employment of dental assistants is expected to grow by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to increase the demand for preventive dental services. As dental practices grow, more dental assistants will be needed.  In the Northwest Workforce Development Area, which includes Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties, Dental Assistants are listed as an "in demand" occupation on the Demand/Decline Occupations list. Criminal convictions may restrict or prevent student participation with internships and employment in this industry.

For more detailed information about Washington State healthcare employment trends, wage rates, employment opportunities, job tasks, etc. search the websites listed below:

Placement Rate

Placement and Completion Data

Program Resources

Information Packet

Please contact Valerie Thompson to receive a copy of our Student Information Packet.

Phone: 360.416.7662
Email: [email protected]

Contact Us

If you are a high-school student interested in this program, please contact Lynette Brower for more information.

If you are a college student interested in this program, please contact Valerie Thompson for more information.

Lynette Brower, Dean of Students
Northwest Career & Technical Academy
360.848.0706   ext. 4005    or   [email protected]
NCTA website:

NCTA Office Closed Summer Qtr - Please Contact:
Valerie Thompson, Office Assistant
Skagit Valley College
Nelson Hall Room N-210
360.416.7662    or   [email protected]

Information Sessions

Information sessions are scheduled by the Dental Technology program faculty (located on NCTA campus).  Please call or visit the campus for more information. Contact information listed above.